U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is cracking down -- even more than it revealed in March -- on lobbying for funds under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.The White House posted a statement on its Web site Friday, saying that the new rules on special interest influence would require even more transparency.
Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, has clarified a few points and taken restrictions a bit further than was apparent in Obama's March 20 memo on lobbying for Recovery Act funds.
The White House already stated that all communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials must be disclosed on the Internet. It stated that verbal conversations between the lobbyists and government officials are barred and all communications should be in writing, so comments can be posted on the Internet.
The President's memo said that the Office of Management and Budget would review and evaluate the restrictions and recommend modifications. Those modifications now include expanding the restriction on oral communications to cover everyone, not just registered lobbyists.
"For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process," the White House stated. "We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program."
The administration will also, said that only agency officials could solicit oral comments to help with merit-based decision-making once grant applications have been submitted.
"To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see," the White House explained. "Third, we will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists. If registered lobbyists have conversations or meetings before an application is filed, a form must be completed and posted to each agency's website documenting the contact."